McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 8, 2013

Gov. Fallin signs bill regulating Narconon Arrowhead

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — A bill giving the state oversight of Narconon Arrowhead and other drug rehabs according to legislation signed today by Gov. Mary Fallin.

Senate Bill 295 co-authored by a Senate Democrat Tom Ivester D- Sayer and House Republican Jason Murphey R-Guthrie was signed today at the Capitol after passing the Senate unopposed last week.

The legislation was written after an investigation into a string of deaths that happened within months of each other at Narconon Arrowhead.

Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian that uses the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.The bill originally passed the Senate unopposed in February. Then in April the legislation passed the House Public Health Committee 9 to 1 with an amendment, the amended legislation went on to pass the House 80 to 13. The final Senate vote was Wednesday. It is now headed to Gov. Mary Fallins desk.

Last week Ivester said he wrote the bill because of the deaths at Narconon Arrowhead.

 “It was the repeated deaths, that’s what did it for me,” Ivester said.

“That, and that nothing was being done legislatively about it.”

He said the legislation will force drug rehabs such as Narconon Arrowhead to be certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Heath and Substance Abuse, giving the state oversight over such facilities.

Narconon Arrowhead under a multi-agency investigation since the July death of Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso. Her father, Robert Murphy said he calls the bill Stacy's Bill in memory of his daughter. After Stacy Murphy was found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in July 21, the case was investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Mental Health.

The investigation expanded into the 2012 deaths of two others found dead at the facility. All three deaths occurred within months of each other.

In 2012, two months before Stacy Murphy was found dead, Hillary Holten, 21, was found dead in April, and Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead at the facility in October of 2011.

Also under investigation was the 2009 death of Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28.

Werninck died at a local hospital while a patient of Narconon Arrowhead.In April Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith issued a statement regarding the legislation.

“We have no problem with SB295."

However, we do not understand the amount of legislative attention that has been spent on (the bill) when you consider the number of critical issues facing Oklahomans that require legislative solutions,” Smith said in the statement.

 Meanwhile SB295 is now aw and will it take effect in November.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.